1 The Corinthians must not vex their brethren, in going to law with them: 6 especially under infidels. 9 The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 15 Our bodies are the members of Christ, 19 and temples of the Holy Ghost. 16, 17 They must not therefore be defiled.
ARE any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?
Douay Rheims Version
He blames them for going to law before unbelievers. Of sins that exclude from the kingdom of heaven. The evil of fornication.
ARE any of you, having a matter against another, go to be judged before the unjust: and not before the saints?
i. The Apostle passes on to the subject of lawsuits and trials, and reproves the Corinthians for instituting proceedings before the heathen judges, and he declares those proceedings to be thereupon unjust and unfair.
ii. Then (ver.9) he declares that the unrighteous, of whom he names several kinds, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
iii. He passes on (ver.13) to fornication, and condemns it on many grounds, which I will collect at the end of the chapter.
Ver. 1.—Dare any of you . . . go to law? Literally, be judged, i.e., contend in judgment. Cf. 1 Sam. xii.7; Ezek. xx. 35; and Jer. ii. 35. The Apostle is not censuring those who were dragged before the heathen tribunals, but those who dragged their brethren before them, or who appeared before them by the consent of both parties.
Before the unjust. The saints here is a name for the faithful, and the unjust, therefore, are Gentile unbelievers. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm. The heathen are so called as lacking the faith by which the just man lives, and as being therefore unjust, and as often committing injustice strictly so called. In other words, since these unjust men are the judges, justice is not to be looked for from them. As they pervert the faith , so do they justice.
Ver. 2.—If the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? If the saints are to judge the whole world how much more ought they to be able to act as arbiters in composing their own small differences?
Ver. 3.—Know ye not that we shall judge angels? Some think that angels here means priests, and they refer to Malachi ii. 7, “For he is the angel of the Lord of hosts,” spoken of the priest. But this is foreign to the mind of S. Paul, and therefore the Fathers unanimously take it literally.
Observe that, as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ambrose, and Anselm say, it is the day of general judgment that is here spoken of.
Hence it follows (1.) that at that day not only men but angels, both good and bad, are to be judged. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, Anselm understand this passage to refer to evil angels; for there is one Church of angels and men, and one Head and Judge, even Christ. Such a judgment tends to display publicly the Divine righteousness, and the honour due to the angels.
It follows (2.) that this judgment is not such an one as is spoken of in S. Matt. xii. 41, where it is said that the Queen of the South and the Ninevites should rise up in the judgment and condemn that generation of Jews, but judgment in the proper sense of the word, inasmuch as it is set side by side with that by which the Corinthians judged their worldly matters. S. Paul says then that Christ and the Saints, by their power and authority, shall judge the angels as well as men: the good by a judgment of approbation, of praise and glory, and the evil by a judgment of condemnation and reprobation. They shall be judges because, when they were frail men in the body, they devoted themselves to the worship of God and perfect purity. The others shall be judged because they refused to do God’s will, though they were incorporeal and pure spirits. So Theophylact and Theodoret. Again, because the Saints were victorious over the devil in this life, they for their reward shall, before the whole world, pass judgment on his malice, pride, and foolishness, and shall exult over him as conquered, mean, and contemptible, cast away by God, and condemned to everlasting punishment. So Christ is said to do in Col. ii. 15. And this will be to the exquisite pride of the devils a most bitter punishment, as Francis Suarez says beautifully (pt. iii. qu. 69, disp. 57, sect. 8). Add to this that the Apostles and Apostolic men, who left all and followed Christ most closely, will be nearest to the Judge, as the leaders of His kingdom and assessors of their King. And so their sentence will be Christ’s; and as Cardinals are associated with the Pope, so they with Christ shall judge all others.
How much more things that pertain to this life? We are competent and worthy to judge things that belong to man’s ordinary life, if only the office of judging is intrusted to us by the litigating parties, or if we are appointed to it by the Church or by the State. For if we are able to judge angels, why not matters of this world? For angels as far surpass worldly things as heaven is higher than earth.
Ver.4.—Set them to judge who are least esteemed, rather than the heathen.
Ver. 5.—Is it so that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? This is severe irony, and a tacit reproof and condemnation. Sedulius and Gregory (Mor. lib. xix. c. 21) take it a little differently, as if said seriously, as though he meant: Let those who are of lesser merit in the Church, and who have no great gifts of power, judge in matters of worldly business, that so those who cannot do great things may be the means of supplying lesser benefits.
This judging of secular causes was afterwards intrusted amongst Christians to the presbyters and Bishops, as appears from Clement (Constit. lib. i. c. 49-51, and Ep. i. to James the Lord’s brother). He says: “If brethren have any dispute let them not take it for decision before secular magistrates, but, whatever it is, let it be ended by the presbyters of the Church, and let their decision be implicitly obeyed.” “This too was afterwards decreed in the civil law by the Emperor Theodosius, and confirmed by Charlemagne (xi. qu. 1, Can. quicunque and Can. Volumus), who gave permission to any one, whether plaintiff or defendant, to appeal from the secular tribunal to the Ecclesiastical court. Hence it was that Gregory Thaumaturgus, Bishop of Neo-Cæsarea, discharged among his faithful the office of judge, as is testified by Gregory of Nyssa in the life that he wrote of him; so did S. Ambrose, as appears from Offic. lib. ii.c. 29, where he says that he had brought to nought the unjust judgments of the Emperors; so did S. Augustine (de Opere Monach. c. 26); Synesius (Epp. 57 and 58). But as the number of Christians and lawsuits increased, the Bishops transferred this duty to secular judges, who were, however, Christians. This they did, following the teaching and appointment of S. Peter, who this writes to Clement, and in him to all Bishops, in the letter here cited: “Christ does not wish you to be a judge or decider of worldly affairs, lest being engrossed with the things that are seen you have no leisure for the word of God, or dor severing the good from the bad according to the rule of truth,”
It may be asked, Why then foes not S. Paul intrust this office of judge to the Bishop? Ambrose replies, Because there was no such officer at Corinth as yet: “He had not yet been appointed to rule their Church.” The Corinthians had but recently been converted by S. Paul, and were yet but few in number.
Ver. 7.—Now, therefore, there us utterly a fault among you. Fault Theophylact renders condemnation and shame. It is simpler to take it as a defect of shortcoming, as when a man is overcome by another his strength and courage are thereby diminished. Imperfection, meanness, and feebleness of mind are among you, because you are overcome by anger, avarice, and strife, and can bear nothing. It is the mark of a great mind to be raised high above all these things, to look down upon them as beneath its notice, and to care nothing for injuries. It is littleness of mind and love of gain which make you go to law before heathen tribunals, to the scandal of believers and unbelievers, who are thus led to blaspheme the faith of Christ.
Why do ye not rather take wrong? Or suffer loss, as beseems those that are but newly Christians, who are few in number, and in the first fervour of their profession of peace and perfection.
This passage, however, does not favour the Anabaptists, who hold that it means that all judicial power should be taken from the magistrates. For (1.) as Chrysostom says, the Apostle is not condemning the existence of law-courts, but the impatience of the litigants. (2.) He censures them for inflicting injury on their fellow-Christians (ver. 8); (3.) forgoing for judgment on these matters before the unbelievers and the unjust; (4.) for oppressing the poor among them wrongfully; (5.) for so scandalously disturbing brotherly peace, which is the bond of charity, and thus injuring the faith itself. Cajetan adds that one or other of the parties must always be in the wrong, because one or other favours an unjust cause, unless he can be excused through ignorance. Wherefore S. Augustine (Enchirid. c. 78) says that even lawsuits that are just can hardly be entered into without sin, at all events venial sin, because they generally proceed from a too great love of worldly things, and can scarcely be free from the danger of hatred, ill-will, and injurious dealing. There is added to this loss of time, of peace, and internal tranquillity, which cannot be compensated for except by a still greater good, and therefore even suits that have justice on their side are not undertaken without sin. Hence Christ, in S. Matt. v. 40, enjoins “If any man will sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also,” A greater good is the necessity of one’s self, of the public, of ones family, godliness, or the obligations of justice, as when you determine to protect or recover the goods of a monastery, or of the poor, by the public law-courts. So Paul appealed to Cæsar’s judgment-seat (Acts xxv. 11). In fine, the Apostle is not here blaming judging on the part of the judge, but only on the part of the suitors. And so, even if it were sin to go to law, it would not be sin to pass judgment; for judgments put an end to suits, which is altogether a good thing. S. Clement of Rome supports in this S. Paul, his master and contemporary (Constit. Apost. lib. ii. x. 45), in the words: It is the beautiful boast of a Christian that he goes to law with no one. But if by the doing of others, or by any temptation, it come to pass that he is entangled in a lawsuit, he does all he can to put an end to it, although he have thereby to suffer loss, and to prevent himself from having to appear before the heathen’s judgment-seat. Nay, do not suffer secular magistrates to decide in your causes, for by them the devil endeavours to bring the servants of God into reproach, by making it appear that you have no wise man to do justice between you, or to put an end to controversy.”
Ver. 9, 10.—Neither fornicators nor adulterers, &c. . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God. Hence it appears that not only adultery but also fornication, by which as unmarried man sins with as unmarried woman, is against he law of Christ and of nature. Rabbi Moses Ægypt, erred shamefully in this respect (More, lib. iii. c. 50) when he excused the intercourse of Judah with Tamar, related in Gen, xxxvii., on the ground that before the law of Moses whoredom was allowable. Our politicians err still more shamefully who, while allowing that fornication is forbidden by the law of Christ, yet deny that it was forbidden by the law of Moses. For Moses includes it, as do the Rabbins always, in Exod. xx., under the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” under which not only adultery, but also incest, sodomy, fornication, and all kinds of sexual intercourse and lust outside the limits of matrimony are forbidden. So Tobias (iv. 13) says: “Keep thyself, my son, from all fornication.”
So the Apostle here reckons fornication with adultery, idolatry, and other sins which are against the law of nature and of the Decalogue, and naturally shut out men from the kingdom of heaven. For fornication is at variance with the first creation of man, and with the institution of matrimony, by which the God of nature and the Lord of all things has tied the use of those members which serve for generation to matrimony; and outside that He has taken away all permission to use them. It is opposed also to conjugal fidelity, and to the good of the offspring, who cannot be properly brought up in fornication, but only in matrimony. Hence Deut. xxii. 21 orders a maiden to be stoned who before marriage has committed fornication in her father’s house. And the Wise Man says (Ecclus. xix. 3): “He who joins himself to fornication shall be vile.”
Lastly, to pass over other instances, 24,000 of the Israelites were killed for committing fornication with the daughters of Moab.
Effeminate. Those guilty of self-pollution.
Covetous. Those who by fraud, unfair contracts, and legal quibbles get possession of the goods of others. They are distinct from thieves and robbers. Cf. note to ver. 10.
Drunkards. The Greek word here stands both for one that os drunk and one that is given to drunk. Here it denotes rather the act than the habit, as the other words, thieves, revilers, adulterers, do; for one of such acts excludes from the kingdom of heaven. Cf. Gal. v. 21. A single act of drunkenness, if it is perfected, is deadly sim, because it deprives a man of the use of his reason, and makes him like a beast, and exposes him to danger of broils, lust, and many other sins. S. Thomas says, however: “Drunkenness is not a mortal sin if a man is ignorant of the strength of the wine or the weakness of his head,” This excuse, however, is rendered invalid by frequent experience; therefore the Apostle says significantly, “habitual drunkard,” not merely “drunkard.” But the former explanation is the sounder.
Ver. 11.—But ye are washed . . . by the Spirit of our God. Ye were justified in baptism by the Holy Spirit. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ścumenius. S. Cyprian gives a beautiful example of this washing and change of character, produced in his own case by being baptized into Christianity, in Ep. 2, to Donatus, in which he candidly confesses what sort of man he was before his baptism, what a sudden change passed over him through the grace of baptism, and what benefits Christianity conferred upon him, which, as he says, “is the death of vices, the life of virtues.” Nazianzen (Orat. Funebr. in Laudem S. Cypr.) says the same, and relates his wonderful conversion, and the change of heart and life which baptism wrought in him.
Ver. 12.—All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient. All things, say Theodoret and Ścumenius, are through free-will lawful unto me, are in my power, e.g., to commit fornication, to rob, to be drunken, and all the other sins mentioned above. But they are not expedient for the salvation of my soul, inasmuch as they are sins.
But this rendering is rightly condemned by Ambrose, who says: “How can that be lawful which is forbidden? For surely if all things are lawful there can be nothing unlawful.” In other words he says that that is said to be lawful which no law forbids. The word lawful does not apply to that which it is in the power of the will to do or leave undone. The meaning, therefore, of this passage is, all indifferent things, all not forbidden by any law, are lawful to me. So Chrysostom, who with Theophylact refers these words to the next verse.
Ver. 13—Meats for the belly and the belly for meats. 1. Although it is lawful for me to eat every kind of food, yet I will not allow desire for any food to get the mastery over me, and make me a slave to my belly.
2. Ambrose and S. Thomas understand these words to refer to his personal expenses, and to mean—Though it is lawful for me as a preacher of the Gospel to receive from you means of support, yet I will not receive it, lest I become chargeable to any one and lose my liberty. The Apostle after his manner joins together various disconnected matters, which he knew would by intelligible in other ways to those to whom he was writing.
3. The best rendering is to refer these words, with Anselm and S. Thomas, to what had been said above about judgments: I have said these things against going to law, not because it is unlawful in itself for a man to seek to regain his own at law, but because I am unwilling for you to be brought under the power of any one, whether he be judge, advocate, or procurator, especially when they are of the unbelievers.
S. Bernard (de Consid. lib. iii.) says, moralising: “The spiritual man will, before undertaking any work, ask himself three questions, Is it lawful? Is it becoming? Is it expedient? For although, it is well known in the Christian philosophy, nothing is becoming save what is lawful, and nothing is expedient save what is both lawful and becoming, nevertheless it does not follow that all that is lawful is necessarily also becoming or expedient.”
Why, says S. Paul, do you enter on lawsuits for the sake of worldly good, which for the most part serves only for the belly and its meats? For food is but a perishing and mean thing, made but to be cast into the belly. The belly too is the lowest part of man, made only to cook, digest, cast forth, and corrupt the food, and is a vessel containing all that is disgusting. Both food and belly shall be destroyed, for both shall be food for worms; and though the belly shall rise again, yet it will no linger take in food. Secondly, it should be observed that the Apostle here purposely introduces gluttony, because it is the mother of lust, which he then proceeds to condemn. So Theophylact. Hence in the passage bearing the name of S. Athanasius (qu. 133 ad Antioch,), the belly here is understood to mean gluttony and drunkenness. The belly has its desire to drunkenness, and drunkenness to it; but he who is thus given up to serve his belly cannot serve God, but is the slave of his belly, and therefore shall be destroyed of God. This passage is plainly not the writing of S. Athanasius, for earlier (qu. 23) Athanasius himself is quoted, and differed from; moreover, Epiphanius and Gregory of Nyssa are quoted, who lived after Athanasius.
But God shall destroy both it and them. In death and the resurrection, in such a way that the belly will no longer be for meats, nor will there be meats to fill the belly.
Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. It was not meant, or given us, for such an end, but that with chaste body we should serve the Lord, and follow Him, our Head, with pure and holy lives. So Anselm. So also is Christ given to our body to be its head and crown. Or the Lord is for the body in another sense, according to Ambrose and Anselm, viz., that He is the reward for the body that is chaste and pure, and He will give it incorruption and immortality. The first meaning is the simpler, for S. Paul proceeds to speak of the resurrection.
Ver. 14.—And God . . . will also raise up us by His own power. As He raised up Christ when crucified and dead, so too if with Christ we die to lust and gluttony, and crucify them, will He raise up us.
Ver. 15.—Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? For ye yourselves, and consequently your body and soul, are members of the Church of Christ. S. Augustine (Serm. 18. in hæc Verb.) says beautifully: “The life of the body is the soul, the life of the soul is God. The Spirit of God dwells in the soul, and through the soul in the body, so that our bodies also are a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom we have from God.”
Shall I then . . . make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. Take here is not to pluck off and separate from Christ, for a fornicator remains a member of Christ and His Church so long as he retains the true faith. But it means, as S. Thomas says, unjustly to withdraw these members, that were given for generation, from the obedient service of Christ, whose they are. For whoever of the faithful commits fornication filches as it were his body and his organs of generation, which body is a member of Christ, from their lawful owner, and gives them to a harlot. He takes, therefore from Christ, not jurisdiction over his body, but the use of it.
Ver. 16.—Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? One body by a union and blending of the two bodies. Just as merchants in partnership have but one capital, because it is common to both, so those who join in committing fornication have one body, because their bodies are common to both, as Cajetan says. So two are one flesh: that is, out of two there is made but one human being, and that not spiritual, but carnal—wholly fleshly.
For two, saith He, shall be one flesh. S. Paul is here quoting from Gen. ii. 24, where the words are applied to those married. But he refers them truly enough to fornicators, because the external acts, whether of them or of those married, do not differ in kind, though they differ morally by the whole sky, for the acts of the former are lustful and vicious, but those of the latter are acts of temperance, righteousness, and virtue, as S. Thomas says.
1. Observe that it is said of the married that they too shall be one flesh (1.) by carnal copulation, as the Apostle her takes it; (2.) by synecdoche, they shall be one individual, one person: for the man and the woman civilly are, and are reckoned as one; (3.) because in wedlock each is the master of the other’s body, and so the flesh of one is the flesh of the other (cf. 1 Cor. vii. 3); (4.) in the effect produced, for they produce one flesh, that is one offspring.
2. Observe again that Scripture employs this phrase in order to show that of all human relationships the bond of matrimony is the closest and the most inviolable. Hence it was that God made Eve out of the rib of Adam, to show that the man and the woman are not so much two as one, and ought to be one in heart and will, and therefore, if need be, each for the sake of the other ought to leave father and mother, as is said in Gen. ii. 24. The Apostle quotes this passage to show the fornicator how grievously he lowers and disgraces himself, inasmuch as he so closely joins himself to some abandoned harlot as to become one with her, and as it were he transforms himself into her and himself becomes a harlot.
Ver. 17.—But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Not one essentially, as Ruisbrochius (de Alta Contempt.) says that Almaric and certain fanatic “illuminati” thought, but one in the way of accidents: one in charity, in the consent of the will, in grace and glory, all which make man like God, so that he is as it were one and the same spirit with God. So Ambrose, Anselm, Ścumenius. From this passage S. Basil (de Vera Virgin.) shows that the chaste and holy soul is the spouse of God, and is changed into the excellence of the Divine image, so as to become one spirit with God, and from this union with God drinks in all possible purity, virtue, incorruption, peace, and inward calm. “Wherefore,” he says, “the soul which is joined to Christ is, as it were, the bride of the Wisdom or the Word of God; is necessarily wise and prudent, so that every mark of the yoke of brutish folly having been removed by meditation on Divine things, she wears the beauteous ornament of the Wisdom to which she has been joined, until she so thoroughly joins to herself the Eternal Wisdom, so becomes one with It, that of corruptible she is made incorruptible, of ignorant most prudent and wise, like the Word, to whose side she has closely kept, and in short, of mortal man is made immortal God; and so He to whom she has been united is made manifest to all.”
S. Bernard (Serm 7 in Cantic.) beautifully describes this betrothal of God with the soul that clings to Him with pure and holy love, and the communication of all good things that flows from it. He says: “The soul which loves God in called His bride; for the two names, bride and bridegroom, denote the closest affections of the heart; for to them all things are in common: they have one purse, one home, one table, one bed, one flesh. Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, &c., and they twain shall be one flesh. . . . She that loves is called a bride; but one that loves seeks for kisses—not for liberty, or wages, or a settlement of money, but for kisses after the manner of a most chaste bride, whose every breath whispers of her love in all its purity, and who is wholly unable to conceal the fire that is burning her. ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,’ she says. It is as though she were to say, ‘What have I in heaven, and what do I wish for on earth apart from you?’ Surely this, her love, is chaste, since she seeks to have Him that she loves, and nothing else besides Him. It is a holy love, because it is not in the lust of the flesh, but in the purity of the spirit. It is a burning love, because she is so drunken with her own love that she thinks not of His majesty. Yet is One that looks at the earth and it trembles, He toucheth the mountains and they smoke, and she seeks to be kissed by Him. Is she drunk? Surely so, because she had perchance come forth from the wine-cellar. How great is love’s power! how great is the confidence of the spirit of liberty! Perfect love casteth out fear. She does not say, ‘Let this or that bridegroom, or friend, or king, kiss me,’ but definitely, ‘Let Him kiss me.’ Just so when Mary Magdalene, when she found not her Lord in the tomb, and believed Him to have been taken away, said of Him, ‘If thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Who is the ‘Him’? She does not reveal it, because she supposes that what is never for a moment absent from her heart must be obvious to all. So too the bride says, ‘Let him kiss me,’ i.e., him who is never absent from my heart; for being on fire with love she thinks that the name of him she loves is well known to all.” More on this betrothal and union to God of the soul that clings to Him will be found in the notes to 2 Cor. xi. 2.
Again we find S. Bernard, or the author of the treatise, “On the Solitary Life,” saying towards the end: “The perfection of the will that is moving towards God is to be found in the unity with God of the spirit of the man whose affections are set on things above. When he now no longer merely wills what God wills, but has so far advanced in love that he cannot will save what God wills, the union is complete. For to will what God wills is to be like God; not to be able to will save what God wills is to be what God is, with whom Will and Being are the same. Hence it is well said that then we shall see Him as He is, when we shall be so like Him that we shall be what He is. For to those to whom has been given the power of becoming the sons of God, there has been also given the power of becoming, not indeed God, but what God is.”
S. Bernard goes on to point out a triple similitude that men have to God, and then he adds: “This likeness of man to God is called a unity of spirit, not merely because it is the Holy Spirit that effects it, or because He affects man’s spirit towards it, but because it is itself the Holy Spirit—God who is love. Since He is the bind of love between the Father and the Son, He is unity, and sweetness, and good, and kisses, and embraces, and whatever can be common to Both in that supreme unity of Truth and truth of Unity; and similarly He makes man to become to God after man’s capacity all that by substantial unity the Father is through Him to the Son and the Son to the Father. The blessed consciousness of man has found in some way a means by which it embraces the Father and the Son: in an ineffable and inconceivable manner man merits to become of God, though not God. God, however, is what He is by His own Nature; man becomes what he does by grace.”
Ver. 18.—Flee fornication. Because, as Anselm, Cassian, and the Fathers generally teach, other vices are conquered by resistance, lust alone by flight, viz., by fleeing from women, from the objects and occasions of lust, by turning aside the eyes and the mind to see and think of other things. For if you oppose a temptation to some lewdness, or fight against some impure thought, you only excite the imagination by thinking of such things, and then inflame still more the innate lust of the flesh, that is naturally disposed to such acts as fornication.
Every sin that a man doeth is without the body. Does not stain or pollute the body.
It may be said that if a man kills or mutilates or castrates himself he sins against his body, and therefore it is not a fact that every sin distinct from fornication is without the body.
I reply that every sin, i.e., every kind of sins which men commonly and ordinarily commit is without the body. For there are seven capital sins, which theologians, following S. Paul, divide into spiritual and bodily or carnal. Those that are carnal are two—gluttony and lust; the spiritual are five—pride, covetousness, anger, envy, sloth. Of these anger and envy tend directly of themselves towards murder of one’s neighbour, but not except by accident towards murder of one’s self, and that in few and extraordinary cases. The angry man, therefore, does nor ordinarily and necessarily sin against his body, but against that of another, by assaulting him or killing him. The Apostle’s meaning then is, that all the sins in general which men ordinarily and commonly commit are without the body. “Every sin” therefore does not include mutilation or suicide, which happen rarely, and as it were accidentally; nor does it include gluttony as I will show directly.
But he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. S. Jerome (Ep. ad Amand. tom. iii.) gives two explanations of this passage, of which the first is—the fornicator sins against his wife, who is his own body; the second is—he plants in his body the seeds of sexual passion, which, even after his sin, remain, when he wishes to repent, to spring up into active life. S. Jerome says that “other sins are without, and after being committed are repented of, and though profit urge to them yet conscience rebukes. Lust alone, even in the hour of repentance, suffers under the whips and stings of the past, and under organic irritation, and under incentives to sin, so that material for sin is supplied again by thoughts of the very things which we long to see corrected.” S. Jerome confesses (Ep. 22 ad Eustoch,) that he knew this from own experience. S. Mary of Egypt found the same true in her own case, who endured under penance these whips and stings for as many years as she had formerly given to sexual passion, viz., seventeen, as Sophronius, Patriarch if Jerusalem, related in her life.
Ścumenius has ten other explanations of this passage, as has also Isidorus Pelusiota (lib. iv. Ep. 129 ). But the true and genuine sense is: Whoever commits fornication does injury to his own body, 1. because he polluted and disgraces his body, as Gregory of Nyssa says in his oration on these words.
2. Because by fornication he weakens and exhausts his body, and often destroys it, by contracting venereal disease. So S. Athanasius, quoted by Ścumenius. In both these ways the glutton and drunkard sin against their body, because the first disgraces it by subjecting it to unhealthy humours, to vomiting, and other disgusting things, while the latter weakens, injures, and finally ruins its natural heat and strength. Hence under the name of fornication, here gluttony and drunkenness, as being akin to it, or rather its mother, may be understood. It was for this reason that the Apostle, in ver. 13, spoke of gluttony. For these two sins, gluttony and lust, are vices peculiar to the body, and are thence called sins of the flesh: other sins belong to the spirit alone, as I have just said.
3. The fornicator dies injury to his own body, inasmuch as he alone brings his body, which was created free, pure, and noble, under the jurisdiction, service, and power of the mist degraded harlot, so that he becomes as one thing with her. In the same way that, if any one were to bind his own body, that was noble, healthy, and beautiful, to the body of some loathsome leper, he would be said to do his body a great wrong, so does he who unites to a common, base, and infamous harlot his body, that was created by God pure, noble, and free, and redeemed and washed by the blood of Christ, do to it grievous injury. In all these verses the Apostle lays stress upon this wrong.
4. The fornicator does injury to his body, because he excites in it a foul and shameful lust, which so absorbs the mind that in carrying it out into action the man can think of nothing else. He makes his body, therefore, the slave of his lust, in such a way that he is wholly ruled by it. Neither gluttony nor any other sin in the body excites such shameful and vehement lust as this is. Impurity alone then holds sway over the body, and by its lust and outward action stains, subjugates, and destroys it.
Ver. 19.—Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost? They, therefore, who pollute their bodies by impurity are guilty of sacrilege, for they sin against the Holy Ghost. They do Him wrong by robbing Him of the body dedicated to Him, and 120 transferring it to the demon of lust. Further, the bodies of the faithful are the temple of the Spirit of Christ, because they themselves are members of Christ, and because the faithful are one spirit with God. (See notes to vers. 16, 17, and 2 Cor. vi. 16. ) Tertullian cleverly and beautifully says (de Cultu Femin. c. i.) that the guardian and high-priestess of this temple is chastity. He says: “Since we are all the temple of God, because endowed and consecrated with the Holy Spirit, the guardian and high-priestess of His temple is chastity, who suffers nothing unclean, nothing unholy to be carried in, lest God, who inhabits it, be offended, and leave His polluted shrine.” The faithful and just is therefore a temple in which by grace dwells and is worshipped the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given us, to work in us all holy thoughts, affections, words, and works. Wherefore it is altogether unseemly that His soul and body should by fornication become the temple of Venus and Priapus: this is a grievous wrong done to God and the Holy Spirit. Hence it was that S. Seraphia, virgin and martyr, when asked by the judge, “Where is the temple of the Christ whom you adore, where you sacrifice?” replied, “I, by cultivating chastity, am the temple of Christ, and to Him I offer myself a sacrifice.” The judge retorted, “If your chastity, then, were taken from you, you would, I suppose, cease to be a temple of Christ?” The virgin rejoined: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” The judge then sent two young men to violate her, but at her prayer an earthquake took place, and the young men fell down dead: they were, however, at her prayers restored to life. This is to be found in her life by Surius, under the 3rd of September.
Ver. 20.—For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. Value highly your bodies, though the devil bids for them with a shameful and brief bodily delight. Do not despise your bodies, do not sell them for nothing—rather think them of the highest possible worth; for it is to the glory of God if these bodies, which God bought at a great price, even with His own blood, become of great importance in our eyes. Hence the well-known proud name of a Christian is, “Bought and Redeemed,” viz., from sin and heathenism, by the precious blood of Christ. So in olden times the children of Christians were bought by the Turks, and became, instead of Christians, Mahometans, and were called Mamelukes, or “the bought;” for when the Tartars had subdued Armenia they sold the children of the Christians. Melech-Sala, Sultan of Egypt, bought them in great numbers, and had them trained as soldiers, and called Mamelukes. After the death of Melech-Sala the Mamelukes began to appoint a king for themselves, A.D. 1252, out of their own society of apostate Christians. As they took their rise under the Emperor Frederick II., so under Solyman, who filled the Egyptian throne, they were exterminated, A.D. 1516. Then their reign and existence ceased together. Glorify God in your body, by keeping it pure in obedience to the Spirit and to God.
The Latin has, “Glorify and carry God,” but the carry is not in the Greek. “As a horse,” says S. Thomas, “carries its lord and rider, and moves as he wills, so does the body serve the will of God.” The Greek also adds, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
Observe that the Corinthians were greatly given to impurity, and consequently to gluttony. This is evident from Suidas, who, under the word “Cothys,” says: “Cothys is a devil worshipped by the Corinthians as the ruler of effeminate and unclean persons.” Herodotus says the same thing (Clio), and Strabo (lib.viii.). The latter says: “The temple of Venus at Corinth was so wealthy that it had mire than a thousand harlots as priestesses, whom men and women dedicated to the goddess.” Thus κορινθιάξεθνbecame a common word for lasciviousness, self-indulgence, and impurity generally. Hence it is that the Apostle takes such pains to warn the Corinthians against their common sin of fornication; and he does this by various reasons drawn from different sources: (1.) from creation, (2.) from the resurrection of the body, (3.) from the shamefulness of impurity, and the injury it does to the body, (4.) from the dignity of the body.
From these we may collect six arguments by which he seeks to save them from fornication: (1.) Because our body is not our own but the Lord’s (ver.13); (2.) Because, if it is pure, it shall rise again with glory (ver. 14); (3.) Because our body is a member of Christ. (ver. 15); (4.) Because the body is a pure temple of the Holy Spirit, in order that by clinging to God in chastity it may become one spirit with Him (ver. 17); (5.) Because our body has been bought with the blood of Christ, and therefore it is an unworthy thing, and an injury to God, to Christ, and the Holy Spirit, to give it to a harlot (ver. 20). See Chrysostom (in Morali.).
S. Bernard (Serm. 7 in Ps.xci.) moralises thus: “Glorify, dearly beloved, and bear meanwhile Christ in your body, as a delightful burden, a pleasant weight, a wholesome load, even though He seem sometimes to weigh heavily, even though sometimes He use the spur and whip on the laggard, even though sometimes He hold in the jaws with bit and bridle, and curb us wholly for our good. Be as a beast of burden in the patience with which you bear the load, and yet not as a beast, heedless of the honour that its rider gives. Think wisely and sweetly both of the nature of the load you bear, as well as of your own future benefit.” So S. Ignatius, the martyr, was called “God-bearer” and “Christ-bearer,” and he salutes the Blessed Virgin by the same name, “Christ-bearer,” in his letters to her, as S. Bernard says.